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date: 11 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Some argue that digital methods may be a safer alternative for conducting research in difficult research environments because they allow a researcher to avoid physical danger. However, because of the increased visibility of the association between researcher and participant, as well as greater opportunities for a participant to be identified, digital methods may in fact increase risk for both participants and researchers. Difficult research environments are places where daily life is unpredictable, uncertain, or permeated by fear. Normal existence in these places is rampant with risk, regardless of efforts to avoid or mitigate it. Such research sites can include conflict zones, politically repressive environments, authoritarian states, “terrorist” or ideological groups, and more. Recommendations made in this chapter could be extended to studies of other vulnerable or marginalized populations, activists, social movements, or criminal or stigmatized groups. A set of best practices for researchers attempting to use digital methods in difficult environments is presented.

Keywords: ethics, methods, research methods, digital methods, fieldwork, vulnerability

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